When a officer stopped a driver Monday and told him he and his passenger had been seen stealing the groceries in his back seat, the man smiled and said, "That's all?"
Oh, by no means was that all.
Police had been trailing the driver for some time and believe that his arrest also solves a long string of more serious crimes, one dating back to July.
The 32-year-old Wauwatosa man was arrested at 1:13 p.m., along with his companion, a 33-year-old Milwaukee man. The Wauwatosa man is suspected in at least nine "smash and grab" thefts in November and December, in which he allegedly smashed in windows of vehicles, most of them while parked at , 11737 W. Burleigh St., and stole property from them.
In a number of those incidents, purses and wallets were stolen and credit cards were used to make fraudulent purchases of gasoline and merchandise.
The minivan the Wauwatosa man drove in those incidents was also identified by Greenfield police as the one used in several smash and grab thefts there on Jan. 14 at Budget Cinema, 4475 S. 108th St.
According to police reports:
Two undercover officers were following the minivan Monday when they saw it pull into the store at 1717 N. Mayfair Rd.
As it happened, another detective – in fact, the one in charge of the case – was eating lunch at , 1900 N. Mayfair Rd., and she too recognized the van as it entered the Pick 'n Save lot.
She and another officer watched the van while the first two followed the suspects into the store and watched as they pretended to buy $156.04 worth of groceries.
They said the two scanned some items at a self-serve check-out, even asking for assistance from a cashier to verify a liquor purchase. Then the Wauwatosa man swiped a card and pretended to complete the transaction, but the card was not accepted. They bagged the merchandise and left.
Officers followed the pair all the way to central Milwaukee, hoping they might catch them in the act of another crime. After watching them make what appeared to be a drug buy in an alley off North 18th Street, they stopped the van in the 3800 block of North 37th Street.
The officers said that as they were following, they saw the men rolling up a blunt of marijuana, and then saw "thick smoke... pouring out of the front side windows."
Besides the stolen groceries, police found bits of broken automotive glass on the floor of the van and a bag, a GPS unit and several phone charger cords believed to have been stolen at Bowlero.
Both men have long criminal histories. The Wauwatosa man was on probation for an earlier smash and grab theft and is awaiting a February court date for a retail theft arrest on Nov. 11
The Milwaukee man was also on probation and out on bail for a felony charge.
The Milwaukee man agreed to give police a statement and said that the two men have been best friends for some time, but it seemed to him that every time they got together he found himself getting in trouble with the law.